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Petition Ban Supertrawlers from UK waters after leaving the EUs Common Fisheries Policy

We request that the Government proposes a ban on supertrawlers from UK waters after the UK becomes an Independant Coastal State and is no longer restricted by the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which allowed these huge vessels to decimate fish stocks and endanger marine ecosystems and species.

More details

Supertrawlers are factory sized fishing vessels over 100m which trail nets a mile long catching thousands of tonnes of fish including bycatch and protected species including cetaceans.
Foreign owned supertrawlers are regularly decimating the UK's fish stocks and endanger protected marine species:
In 2019 such vessels fished in 39 of the UK's marine protected areas, while in the first six months of 2020 a total of 23 supertrawlers (mostly Dutch and Russian) fished in 19 marine protected areas.

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Government responded

This response was given on 14 January 2021

Now that the transition period has ended, we are reviewing our policy on access for supertrawlers. This review will be driven by evidence.

Read the response in full

We are reviewing our policies for supertrawlers. Any action needs to be evidence-based and in line with the UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

There is no agreed definition of what a supertrawler is. In the media it has come to be known as a vessel that is over 100m in length. ‘Supertrawlers’ generally target pelagic species of fish within the water column and are unlikely to damage the seabed habitats, such as reef and sediment habitats, for which most Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are designated. Prohibiting these vessels will not protect MPAs from the fishing activities known to be damaging to some of them, such as bottom trawling.

The creation of MPAs is not generally an effective way to protect and conserve pelagic fish species which these vessels target. This is because these species are not stationary within the boundaries of the MPA where management measures would be applied. Management of stocks through the setting of quota limits has been shown to be a more effective conservation measure for pelagic fish species.

The UK is a global leader in the fight to protect our seas, with 38% of UK waters in Marine Protected Areas. The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has restricted our ability to implement fisheries management measures within offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

The UK is now an independent coastal state and is no longer bound by the CFP. Leaving the CFP gives us the opportunity to introduce sustainable, responsive and resilient new fisheries policies.

In October, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) issued a call for evidence to inform the management decisions of five MPAs. The call for evidence closed on 15 December and the MMO are currently reviewing the responses. The evidence provided during this process will help shape and inform the MMO’s assessments and options ahead of formal consultation on site management measures early in 2021.

Now we have left the EU, the implementation of the Fisheries Act helps to protect our marine resources and develop plans to restore our fish stock back to more sustainable levels. The Act strengthens the MMO’s powers in a variety of areas, ensuring that they can restore and enhance, as well as conserve, the marine environment in the offshore zone, and to continue to support the delivery of the Government’s Blue Belt Programme. Any new measures to protect MPAs are likely to use the new byelaw powers in the Act.

The Fisheries Act prohibits any commercial fishing vessel (including foreign-registered vessels) from operating in UK waters without a licence. It also provides powers to attach conditions (such as the areas that can be fished, species that can be caught and the type of fishing gear that can be used) to fishing vessel licences.

Foreign vessels operating in UK waters will have to follow UK rules. Where vessels do not comply with these rules enforcement action can be taken against them. We will need to consider how any measures fit with our obligations under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU and avoid taking any action against individual vessels which could be construed as discriminatory.

The MMO continues to monitor fishing activity in English waters – with dedicated enforcement and surveillance work to protect fisheries, including offshore patrol vessels for at-sea surveillance.

The forthcoming consultations, new byelaw powers and the protections from licensing, mean that the UK’s MPA’s will have greater protection than before.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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